Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #6 – Couscous

Couscous with Tomato and Onion

Dee –At the beginning of the book Yotam and Sami discuss this simple recipe, which is on page 129, and declare it to be one of their favourites as it brings back so many memories for them.  I have chosen it to showcase the featured ingredient from April 2013, couscous, because I too have memories of a similar dish, but as it takes place very far away from Jerusalem, I’ll cover it later.
As mentioned above, this is a simple recipe that not only tastes amazing but looks amazing too. 
Initially the couscous needed to be covered with boiling stock and left to steam, so once that was underway, I turned my attention to the rest of the ingredients.  The onion was slow cooked in a pan until softened, and then tomato puree and sugar were added, followed by chopped fresh tomatoes.  Normally I deseed tomatoes before chopping them but I decided not to for this dish as I wanted the tomato pulp to give the couscous a little extra moistness.  The chopped tomatoes were only cooked briefly before the couscous was ready.  I then mixed it all together, at which point the whole mixture took on a very pleasing rich golden colour with red flecks from the partially cooked tomatoes.
The recipe then mentions frying the mixture to give it a crunchy underside, but I was a bit reluctant to take this extra step; firstly because yes, I was scared of messing it up and didn’t have any spare ingredients for another; secondly my pan would have been too heavy to attempt any kind of inverting; but thirdly I was happy with the dish as it was and didn’t want to risk spoiling it.  The commentary preceding the recipe does say that the fried underside was a recent addition to an older recipe, so I decided to leave it as it was, and felt confident that I had retained the spirit of the original recipe.
I served it with a chopped salad of cherry tomatoes cucumber, red onion, chilli, carrot and coriander.  I also made a small portion of yoghurt and cucumber, using the recipe on page 299 but without the garlic or mint, to counteract the effect of the chillies in the salad as they still packed quite a punch.
This made for a great vegetarian tea, and I will certainly be enjoying the couscous and tomatoes again.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest
(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Bonus Recipe (Not from Jerusalem)

Couscous with Sun Dried Tomato and Mint

My story regarding this recipe began with the sun dried tomatoes.  The first time I tried them, I can’t remember where or when it was but it doesn’t matter, I really enjoyed them, so bought a box of them in a supermarket.  On the back of the box was a recipe for ‘Sun dried tomato couscous’, with ‘A taste of Morocco’ as a sub heading.  Intrigued, I bought the rest of the ingredients, made the dish at home and absolutely loved it.  I’ve made it many times since, refining it and refining it until I finally reached a version which I continue to make to this day.  It must be one of the oldest recipes in my collection.  In fact, I think my love of Eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines may well have begun with that one little recipe tagged on to the back of a box of sun dried tomatoes.

This is the recipe I used for the dish featured in the picture.  A number of changes have been made to the recipe on the back of the box, so I have changed the name of the dish and completely rewritten the instructions, as the original required the couscous to be made “according to the packet instructions”.  The quantities listed will serve two people and can easily be scaled up or down as required.  Although the original recipe mentioned the dish providing a taste of Morocco, I don’t think my version would be at all out of place as part of a Jerusalem themed menu.

4 sun dried tomato halves, sliced lengthways into thin strips
100g couscous
4 spring onions, halved lengthways, then thinly sliced widthways
2 tsp fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
1 tsp rapeseed oil
lemon Juice (bottled is fine)
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Put the couscous and sun dried tomatoes in separate bowls and cover each with boiling water, then cover the bowls and leave for 15 minutes.  (If the sun dried tomatoes are in a jar of olive oil, there is no need to rehydrate them.  They can be sliced up as they are).
2.  Meanwhile, heat the rapeseed oil in a pan and when hot, add the spring onions.  Lower the heat and cook the onions until they soften.  When softened take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool slightly until the end of the 15 minutes mentioned in stage one.
3.  At the end of the 15 minutes, remove the covers from the bowls.  Fluff up the couscous with a fork and take the sliced tomatoes out of the water if applicable.  Add the couscous and tomatoes to the pan containing the spring onions and oil.
4.  Add the shredded mint and stir everything together.
5.  Add salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to taste, stir again and serve.  Can be enjoyed hot or cold.


  1. Love this recipe, garlic and mint, i love that with the side salad, it is amazing. My friend makes meals like this when we go round for dinner and I'm always trying to replicate him.

    1. Hello Emma, Thanks very much for the feedback. Glad you liked the dishes. The salads take a bit of time to put together, especially if you prefer them finely chopped, as I do, but it's worth it in the end :-)

  2. You've got me asking myself why I never make couscous! I've liked it every time I've had it in a restaurant, so why don't I make it? I like how you described the thought process in deciding not to take that final crunchy-on-the-bottom step.

    1. Hello Jean, Many thanks for your comments. Couscous is stress free to cook and very versatile. There are recipes for it as a sweet dish as well as a savoury one. You should definitely give it a go.